The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik Loses It

Medicins sans frontal-lobes

Always entertaining when recounting his adventures as a Lower Slobbovian living in Paris, Adam Gopnik has lost his appeal since moving to America. Of late he has sidled off into political commentary, a field for which he is as richly equipped as a blind racing tout. In his most recent column in The New Yorker, he goes completely bonkers and actually calls for a coup against President Donald Trump. I won’t reproduce the most lurid bits of his imagining—read it yourself here—but the send-off paragraph is enough to give you a general idea:

Perhaps the most tragic sins against democracy, to which we have already become accustomed, are Trump’s lies. When you have a President who lies as he breathes, for whom lying is simply the normal way of dealing with any difficulty, democratic governance becomes close to impossible. We all forgive fantasy, storytelling, self-justification, faulty memory, mythological insistence. America has survived them all. But telling malicious and scurrilous lies without remorse or regret is a venom that paralyzes the entire political system, for the simple reason that democratic politics are really just a proceduralized form of argument—my evidence here, yours there; our side’s claim like this, yours like that—and when lies are the first premise, the back-and-forth of rational contention becomes impossible. No sane response is possible to an egregious lie except silence, and silence lets the lie win. Trump accuses Barack Obama of wiretapping him, an obvious lie, but the lie becomes part of the fabric of the event, to be adjudicated rather than exploded. He blithely says that he thinks Susan Rice, Obama’s national-security adviser, may have committed a crime, and Rice, playing by rules that were suspended three months ago, says that she “won’t dignify” the remark with a counter-remark. The appeal to dignity is the classic appeal of those who live in an honor society where conduct and credibility are assumed to be inseparable. We are three months past dignity now. That’s the tragedy, and it has already happened.

Don’t Learn About Art THIS Way!


Heavy-handed enough to have done an ad for Conjecturism.

None too subtle was Theodore Shaw, the inventor of Conjecturism, a theory of art criticism that he invented, and continued to peddle via double-truck ads in newspaper supplements and various sectarian-intellectual journals of the 1940s-60s (Commonweal, Commentary, Partisan Review). Many people heard of Conjecturism the first time when someone at the National Lampoon (Sean Kelly? Henry Beard?) did a full-page parody of the ads. This would have been about 1973, by which time the train had left the station. “Don’t Learn About Art This Way!” The visual was an extremely heavy-handed cartoon in the charcoal-and-crayon style of the 1930s. That’s all I can tell you.

Originally published December 28, 2014. Updated February 27, 2016.

Comical ‘Pepe’ Art Show Rustles Jimmies in London

Art, Newsbrief

Meta-art: In London, an “alt-right” art show is staged by a provocateur as a joke. But even as a joke, it won’t fly with the Commie element.

From the New York Times, Feb. 25.

Slightly more unhinged is this London artsy blog.

POSTSCRIPT: Rioters finally shut down the gallery in March.

There Is an Art to Bad Art Museum Reviews



Currently my favorite vademecum is this funny little website called Bad Art Museum Reviews. I’ve linked it, so you can go right to it when you’re finished reading my pearls of wisdom.

Somebody was actually complaining that Andy Warhol wasn’t much of an artist, since he had someone else do his silkscreens and really only wanted to hang out with famous people. I mean, this person had just found this out and was actually whinging about it!  (Personally I always admired Andy for this, and I think the same accusation can be made against many big names of today. The photographer Nan Goldin for example. She did some good work way back in the 80s, but that was about it. Cindy Sherman too. But I digress.)

That Warhol thing was inadvertently funny, since the writer was so full of himself. But sometimes the reviews are meant to be nothing but rude fun. In particular, check out the remarks about the museum in San Jose, which seems to be about the worst excuse for an art museum. Okay, you can go click on that link now. I’m done.

New Test Post for You and Yours


The story is told about a little child who was so tiny he was no bigger than the end of your little finger. Hence he was named Little Pinky-end. His parents were poor CPAs and couldn’t support their teeming brood, so they sold them to the wolves.

Charlie Krafft’s Lovecraft Award Is a Hit


As some people on Twitter have noticed, an organization called Counter-Currents Publishing has launched an “H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature.” The accolade is, in part, a rebuttal to the World Fantasy Awards’ recent decision to stop using a sculpted likeness of the author for their trophy — because although he’s now a canonized writer of horror fiction, Lovecraft was also an explicit racist. The Counter-Currents prize in his honor will be “awarded to literary artists of the highest caliber who transgress the boundaries of political correctness.” And it will consist of — what else? — a bust of Lovecraft, sculpted by none other than Charles Krafft.

Read rest here.

Jon Gnagy, Master of Simple Shapes, Dies at 119


The first “g” … was silent.

Jon Gnagy, the TV drawing teacher who showed millions how to turn a simple triangle into a cocker spaniel, died yesterday in his home in Westport, Connecticut. He was 119 years old.

Burial will be next week in the Old Moldovian Cemetery, Ridgefield CT.

CORRECTION: The above obituary misstated the burial place of popular TV art instructor Jon Gnagy. The actual name of the cemetery the Old Moravian Cemetery, and it is in Trumbull, CT, not Ridgefield as stated. In addition, the Gnagy family decided to have the deceased member cremated at the Milford Crematorium (formerly the Milford Jai-Alai Fronton) because “burial is just too damn much trouble.”

CORRECTION: The above obituary misstated the death year of TV art instructor Jon Gnagy. Mr. Gnagy actually passed away in 1981.

Stalking the Wild Jackson Whites


My friend Sallie writes,


Zoom Zoom Zoom
For everyone who feels inclined, A kiddie show we hope to find…

Does anyone remember Zoom? It was a kiddie show in the 1970s. Kids in bare feet and striped jerseys, improvising the program as they went along. It was invented by an English TV producer named Chris Sarsen, who really pulled the wool over the eyes of the producers at WGBH in Boston, the educational-tv channel. But whatever its initial hokum, it got momentum and a life of its own and lasted through the seventies.

You didn’t need much cultural heft to make it in the Boston TV market in the 1970s, I’ll grant you. That old warhorse Rex Trailer, a kiddie-show host who began his career in Philadelphia right after WW2, had what amounted to a permanent sinecure on the Boston educational channel. He had something called Earth Lab, a version of  the Mr. Wizard science show, and there was a long-running thing called Boomtown, and at least a half-dozen other kiddie programs that Rex put on across the country. None of the Rex Trailer product was particularly good, but in the 70s no one was particularly critical. Boston was a strange tide-pool of media; it liked to think it was on the cutting-edge, because it had MIT and Harvard in abundance; but really it was a backwater, a New England college town with delusions of grandeur.

Somehow I fell in with this Mister Hornblower, about 30 years of age. He lived in a tiny, triangular-shaped studio apartment in Greenwich Village. He was a pederast, and appropriately enough the apartment was on Gay Street. He had feeble little jobs writing or editing TV scripts, which he worked on during those hours of the day when he was not entirely immersed in marijuana, vodka, or picking up 14-year-old boys on the dock at the end of Christopher Street.

I fell in with Hornblower because I was walking a neighbor’s dog out on the dock on one of those very sunny winter days when the sun is low in the sky and gets in your eyes. Would I like to be in his new educational-tv kiddie show? Oh sure, I said. I had no idea that I was the first female. Shortly afterwards Hornblower started riding me to get another female member of the kiddie-show cast.  So I brought in my best friend. She dropped out of high school dropped out of Hornblower, went out to Hollywood and became a big star, at least for a few years.

Somewhere along the line, Hornblower felt obliged to come up with “plot” or “theme” ideas for the kiddie shows. Someone brought him the story of the Jackson Whites in northern New Jersey. Hornblower thought it would be a good idea to go visit these Jackson Whites  and put them in his kiddie show. Wouldn’t everyone want to be in an afternoon kiddie show?

Apparently the Jackson Whites didn’t care for it. Hornblower stayed in a motel in the region, accompanied by two of his favorite teenage male companions. While he slept, someone torched his car. The car was a rental. Hornblower spent years sorting out the liability. He soon gave up the idea of regarding himself a kiddie-show producer.

New Plasticene Hummel Kit with the D-I-Y Flavour


hummel-Figurine-Ts111611-7405Franz Liverwurst, copartner of W. Goebel Porzelanfabrik in Oeslau near Coburg discovered a book with Hummel motifs. It was love at first sight and led to a contract with the artist in 1934.

The sculptors Reinhold Unno (1880-1974) and Arthur Kelly (1886-1972) devoted all their energies to develop the three-dimensions models for the later Hummel figurines from doodles.

The very first GIs who came to Germany swapped cigarettes and cans of Spam for Hummel figurines. Since then they have risen in value. Former First Lady, Betty Flossenburg, owns a cabinet full of them. President Ronald Rivkin received a gift of the Quartet of Puppies on his visit to Bitburg.

A Common House Pet Becomes a Harbor Seal


Puijila_BWPuijila darwini resembles a common house pet, and could easily be mistaken for an otter or large stoat. However, it is actually the ancestor of the walrus, sea lion, harbor seal, and other popular members of the pinniped family. What happened was that it swam in freshwater lakes and streams and somehow got washed out to sea.

Vladimir Putin and the World of Art

Vladimir Putin and the World of Art thumbnail

The world was in quite a pickle in 1944, the year Vladimir Putin was born. The Germans were being chased out of the Baltic Countries (soon to become slave satrapies of the USSR) and the historic Hanseatic Port of Riga was now a huge concentration camp, where eleven million prisoners of all nationalities were forced to build Liberty Ships until they dropped dead from hunger.

putinLittle Vladimir knew nothing of this. His father was a leading apparatchiknik in the Bottle City of Kandor, beyond the Urals. Vlad lived a sheltered life. So sheltered that when he was fourteen and sent to prep school, the other boys laughed at him when the instructor asked for High Points of the Great Patriotic War and Vladimir Putin suggested the Battle of Mukden.

Vladimir didn’t mind. He consoled himself with his Paint-by-Numbers set (a legacy from his wealthy aunt) and dreamt of the day when the finest trollops and art galleries down Nevsky Prospekt would vie for his favors.

How Vladimir loved coming home for the long holidays! The soft incandescent light burning in the hallways, showing the way to the Fabergé-tiled washroom with the gold-plated faucets; for this had once been the dacha of Grand Duke Nicholas.

Philly-pretzel“Would you like soft pretzel for little breakfast, Vladimir Ivanovichki?” his mother whistled down the hall, using the diminutive of the familiar patronymic. “Soft pretzel good, come all way from Philadelphiosk!”

Soft Pretzels in the Quaker City


How did soft pretzels conquer the Quaker City? It all began about 1850, when an order of nuns decided to bake and sell soft pretzels in order to raise money for a school softball team. In those days pretzels cost only one cent, or three pretzels for a nickel. Soon someone noticed that it all looked like a scam, as softball hadn’t been invented yet. “This is true,” said Mother Superior Annabelle Drexel, OSX, “there is no softball. In truth, we are raising money for our field hockey and cricket teams.” Such a scandal resulted from this admission that the order of nuns had to move themselves and their school out to the farmlands of Radnor, where they built a pretzel factory that lasts to this day.